Since McMillan took over March 1, the Hawks have been tough to beat at State Farm Arena, finishing the regular season on an NBA-best 11-game win streak at home, their most recent loss in that building coming April 15 vs. Milwaukee.
Then, in the two games they hosted during their first-round series vs. the Knicks, they blew out New York twice, a raucous home crowd helping them easily clinch the series, 4-1 (both games were sellouts, with attendance for Game 4 announced at 16,458). The Hawks enter Game 3 vs. Philly on their longest winning stretch at home (13 games) since winning 14 consecutive from Feb. 28-April 20, 2010.
In their 13-game stretch, they’ve averaged 118.4 points, shooting 49.7% from the field and 39.8% from 3-point range. They’re 21-2 at home since Feb. 21 (a league-best .913 win percentage).
It will be another sellout for the Hawks, with standing-room-only tickets available.
“We love home court,” power forward John Collins said. “We love the energy and the juice that the fans bring. Obviously there’s not a lot of things like playing at home. … We’ve been confident playing here. We’ve been winning a lot of games recently, and I definitely don’t feel like we want to disappoint of mess up the chemistry, the flow we have going here at home. We’re going to come out and get off to a good start and just try to win the game, compete hard for all 48 minutes.”
Missing two of their best defenders (De’Andre Hunter, who the team announced will have surgery Tuesday and miss the rest of the postseason, and Cam Reddish) up against a tough 76ers team, returning home comes at a good time for the Hawks.
They’re still searching for answers on how to limit Joel Embiid (who has averaged 39.5 points and 15.5 free-throw attempts, through the first two games) and how to take care of the ball against disruptive, long defenders who can turn teams over and thrive in transition (the Hawks committed 17 turnovers in Game 1 and 18 in Game 2).
But, they’re still coming home with the series tied 1-1, weathering a 76ers surge in the fourth quarter of Game 1, and making a game of Game 2 after falling behind 18 in the first quarter.
“Whenever you can split in the playoffs, and certainly split on the road, that’s a good thing,” McMillan said. “We would have liked to have gotten both games, but we were able to get one. It’s very similar to the series against New York. Now we go home, and we have to defend home court. I like where we are. We know we’ve got to play much better, and I feel we will play better, at home.”
All in all, it’s not the worst position to be in, particularly against the top team in the Eastern Conference. And now they get back on familiar territory.
“That’s what we’re looking to do,” Huerter said after the Game 2 loss of the Hawks looking to bounce back in Game 3, on their home court. “Obviously, you never want to lose a game, but the feeling in the locker room is we get to go home and try to take care of business in front of our home fans. It’s going to be a tough series. We knew this coming in.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, coming in here and winning two on the road in this building; it’s a tall task. So we’re fine where we are, and ready to go home.”